The Breakfast Club

An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn


The Knife & Fork


Breakfast Club Visits Chiriaco Summit, General Patton Museum


10 Dec 2005
by Warren McIlvoy

Our last
Breakfast Club event of 2005, was an encore visit to Chiriaco Summit and the General Patton Museum. The "weather Gods" continued to smile upon us and they delivered a CAVU day for our trip west. We made a right down-wind departure out of Deer Valley Airport and turned-in to the Luke Approach frequency just to monitor the frequency for other traffic. Much to my surprise, the Luke folks responded to a call from another aircraft that was in the Wickenburg area. Since the Luke airspace was active this Saturday, I called them for flight following through their airspace as we flew to the west. After clearing the Luke Alert Area airspace, we tuned into our group flight following frequency of 123.45.

I heard reports from some of our aircraft that were already into California so they were well ahead of us. There is not much in the way of scenery here and the Colorado River with the exception the Quartzite, Arizona. In the summer months, the small desert oasis in almost non-existent. But in the winter months, it becomes the winter home to thousands of seasonal visitors that travel by motor home. It is also the site of an annual rock & mineral show that draws people from all over world. From this desert marvel, it is only a few minutes before we cross the Colorado River and fly over Blythe, California. Through the wonders of irrigation, this desert community has been transformed into an agricultural Mecca. For miles in all directions, the landscape is a patch quilt of farm fields that rival those of the Mohawk/Welton Project that envelopes the lower Gila River in southwestern Arizona.

But as we travel outside the Blythe area, the scenery turns into a bleak, parched, featureless, wasteland. There are a number of small, barren, ridge lines to the north and a few to the south but other than that, there seems to be an endless supply of nothing.

By this time, several of our aircraft have reached our destination and, unless there is other traffic, we all intend to land straight-in on runway 24. This would allow us to continue the roll-out right into the ramp parking area that is in the southwest corner of the airport. There was ample parking on the ramp and most of our group remained so that I could get a group photo before we walked over the Chiriaco Truck Stop Café. There were no large tables so our group of 25 people was scattered amongst the various tables in the dinning area.

Here is a brief history...........

Chiriaco Summit, as it is now known, is definitely established as a desert landmark. Joe Chiriaco, the founder, came West in 1927 to see Alabama play Stanford in the Rose Bowl. He never returned to live in his home state of Alabama; instead he found employment with the Los Angeles Bureau of Water and Power as a surveyor. He made his first trek into the desert when his work bought him into a desert area known as Shaver Summit. After several years he gave up his job with the Bureau and settled down at the Shaver Summit site, which he later purchased from J.E. Cram of Mentone, CA

In the early 1900's, there was a gravel road out of Box Canyon that passed by Shaver Summit, running east toward Blythe. With rumors of a new paved road between Indio and Phoenix, Joe began constructing a building, and on August 15, 1933, Joe Chiriaco opened his gas station and general store. H had one dollar in his cigar box till and that dollar remains at the Summit. That same day, the new two-lane blacktop to U.S. 60 was also opened, passing in front of Shaver Summit.

With the new U.S. 60 road opening, the gas station and general store thrived as did Joe Chiriaco. Early in Joe's surveying days, he met a beautiful blonde Norwegian nurse from Minnesota named Ruth Bergseid, who worked at the Coachella Valley Hospital in Indio. On June 25, 1934, the couple was married. They raised 4 children; Pauline Leedom of Visalia, Norma Elliott of Phoenix, and Robert Chiriaco & Margit Chiriaco Rusche of Chiriaco Summit. They both admit that those first years at the Summit were strictly pioneer days; gas lights, generators for power, a very limited supply of water and long 18-hour days of dispensing service to the traveling public. All this was done without the modern conveniences of air conditioning. On June 21, 2000, an important milestone was reached; commercial power arrived at Chiriaco Summit supplied by Imperial Irrigation district. The generators were powered down for the last time and a new era began. About the same time as Joe Chiriaco began the business, the Metropolitan Water District began construction of the aqueduct project that would carry water from the Colorado River to the population basins of the Los Angeles area. After the completion of the aqueduct project, the desert returned to business as usual until spring of 1942. During WWII, General George S. Patton established the Desert Training Center with its headquarters at Camp Young adjacent to Shaver Summit. This was the only place of its kind on limits to the soldiers for many miles. As Paul Wilhelm, a former soldier in the area at the time said, "Everything about Shaver's Summit-of-the-road dispensary drew us like bees to blossoms."

In 1945, Joe and Ruth Chiriaco established a rugged memorial to General Patton at Chiriaco Summit. Today there is a marvelous museum which honors the great American Hero, General George S. Patton and the Desert Training Center, thanks to Margit Chiriaco Rusche and the Bureau of Land management. In 1958 a rural branch of the U.S. Post Office was opened and the name of the area was changed from Shaver Summit to ChiriacoSummit.OnJune30,2004, the new Food Mart opened for business.

Today, Chiriaco Summit is a family-owned corporation with grandchildren Santos and Heather Garcia as General Managers, son Robert and daughter Margit are still active in the business and are part of the development team. The family continues to carry on the duties that Joe and Ruth Chiriaco started, serving the traveling public on wheels.

Joe and Ruth passed away within months of each other in spring of 1996. They embodied the true spirit of the desert and are dearly missed


There, now you have a little idea of the origin of this place that we now know as Chiriaco Summit.

After a leisurely breakfast, most of our group choose to take the short hike to the General Patton Museum that is about a hundred yards west of the café. The General Patton Museum is a fitting tribute to the famous war hero. As you enter, there is a large map done in relief that measures about 18' on all sides and it depicts almost all of the area that encompassed the Camp Young area and its environment. The two rooms that make-up the majority of the museum, are filled with memorabilia of WWII and there is also a 15-minute movie that describes the life and accomplishments of the famed General.

After the museum visit, it was about time for our return trip to the valley. But the festivities were not quite over. After getting situated in our trusty airplane, I turned the key to start the engine but the prop only turned over once. The silence of a non-turning prop, was deafening. I let it sit for just a moment and gave it another try.........nothing, again. I exited the aircraft and walked over to the other three airplanes that were still there and told them ", Chiriaco Summit, we've got a problem". One of the first suggestions was that maybe the truck stop service station may have some long jumper cables but that idea went down in flames when it was determined that all three of the remaining aircraft had 12-volt systems as opposed to my 24-volt system. We discussed some other options but they did not exactly pique my appeal meter. It was then that I decided that it was time for a "crash course" (maybe I should not use the term "crash" in the same sentence with anything regarding aviation), in "hand propping". I have never actually been involved in such an exercise before but I guess that it was now or never. One of the remaining folks volunteered to man the inside controls and, after coordinating with how I was going to proceed, I went about positioning the prop to my liking for my first try. I instructed my helper to turn-on the ignition key and, with all of the trepidation of a gang-plank walker, I gave the prop a mighty tug and.............., voila, it started on the first attempt. The sweet sound of the purring engine was music to my ears. I am now one-for-one in the hand propping department.

Before our departure, a number of us had decided to make a fuel stop in Buckeye as the fuel there was .50 a gallon cheaper than at Deer Valley. While in-route, I made sure that the amp meter needle stayed on the positive side of the zero.

After landing at Buckeye, we were greeted by a gentleman named Nick Mundy. He owns or manages TradeMark Aviation (623) 328-0100. His fuel prices were cheaper than the self service pump owned by the City of Buckeye. After topping-off ours and Don Graminske's aircraft, Nick invited us in to his office in Hanger1 and offered us all a bottle of water while he made-out the fuel invoices. It is my understanding that he will/or already has, taken-over the fuel sales in Wickenburg and will be offering the same, "cheaper" fuel rates than those that prevail at the valley airports. All-in-all, the stop in Buckeye was very pleasant, and, by the way, my engine stated perfectly. What a great way to finish-up a great day of flying and fellowship with our
Breakfast Club folks.

The Chiriaco Summit Gang

  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy in 93MB, BC-1
  • Ken Calman and son Jason Calman in 5023J
  • Walt & Kathy and Greg Schultz in 9305W
  • Larry & Sandy Jensen in 14LJ, BC-65
  • John Rynearson in 3501M
  • Richard Azimov and Jordan Ross in 6864Q, BC-2 and BC-11
  • Al Feldner and Ben Meza and Uriah Dougan in 33RX, BC-33
  • Paul Fortune and Rob Kocak in 7261Y, BC-201
  • Joe & Diane Stockwell in 243CD, BC-22
  • Don Graminske in 9064D, BC-16
  • Allan Wallace in 9002V, BC-39
  • Jerry Grout and Bill Garver in 1129T
  • Glen and Tim Yoder in 52TY, BC-007

What's Next?
Breakfast Club will kick-off its 13th year of monthly fly-in event with a visit to Tucson, Ryan and Todd's Restaurant. In February, we are planning a trip to Page and the Wahweap Resort Hotel. Visit the Breakfast Club web site and view the "Calendar" of events for 2006. That's all for now but remember, fly safe.

Click on the Chiriaco Summit link to view photos of this fly-in event.